Pronoun question

9 Sep

Fill in the blanks with the most appropriate first-person singular pronoun:

  1. “They enjoyed you arguing in favour of it and ___ against”
    1. I
    2. me
    3. my
    4. mine
  2. “They enjoyed your arguing in favour of it and ___ against”
    1. I
    2. me
    3. my
    4. mine

Question #1 is easy: it can only be option #b.

Question #2 is hard. I guess it has to be #d. Right?

J. K. Rowling’s international pseudonyms

2 Sep

As every schoolchild knows, Joanne Rowling adopted the pseudonym J. K. Rowling because her publisher worried boys would not read a book if they knew the author was female. At some point I learned that Harry Potter’s German editions are credited to “Joanne K. Rowling”. What about editions in other languages? The following provisional data is from the names of the articles about Rowling in all language versions of Wikipedia that have such an article. The source is the Wikidata page that centralises all these.

  • J. K. Rowling:- Aragonese, Basque, Bikol Central, Breton, Chinese (Min Nan), Croatian, Danish, Dutch, Esperanto, Estonian, Extremaduran, Faroese, Finnish, French, Galician, Greek, Icelandic, Ido, Iloko, Indonesian, Interlingua, Irish, Italian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Northern Sami, Norwegian, Norwegian Nynorsk, Nāhuatl, Occitan, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Scots, Serbo-Croatian, Sicilian, Slovenian, South Azerbaijani, Spanish, Sundanese, Swedish, Tagalog, Turkish, Uzbek, Vietnamese, Waray, Welsh, Western Frisian
    • Transliteration/nativization of “J. K. Rowling” (e.g. “Dž. K. Roulinga”, “Џ. К. Роулинг”, “J·K·罗琳”):- Arabic, Assamese, Bangla, Cantonese, Central Kurdish, Chinese, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Japanese, Kannada, Korean, Latvian, Macedonian, Maithili, Malayalam, Marathi, Nepali, Persian, Punjabi, Serbian, Sinhala, South Azerbaijani, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Urdu, Yiddish
  • Joanne Rowling:- Asturian, Catalan
    • Transliteration/nativization of “Joanne Rowling”:- Amharic, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Czech, Georgian, Kazakh, Latin, Mingrelian, Mongolian, Russian, Slovak, Tajik, Tatar, Turkmen, Ukrainian
  • Joanne K. Rowling:- Albanian, German, Luxembourgish, Quechua
  • Joanne Kathleen Rowling:- Bosnian, Hungarian, Javanese, Malay, Venetian
    • Transliteration/nativization of “Joanne Kathleen Rowling” :- Sakha

Saint Patty’s Day

8 Mar

Every year in the runup to March 17, Irish people express annoyance when Americans write about “Saint Patty’s Day”. The focus of the ire is the spelling “Patty”: Ireland recognises only “Paddy” as the hypocoristic of “Patrick”, while “Patty” can only be a pet form of “Patricia”. Wikipedia informs me that there are in fact males called “Patty”, allegedly most often in Australia; perusing Wikipedia pages whose titles start with “Patty”, I find males Patty Obasi (Nigeria), Patty Ginnell (Canada), Patty Mills (Australia), and possibly Patty Kane (USA — has a redirect but may not actually be called that).

I have some sympathy for the Americans, many of whom flap intervocalic /t/ (thus pronouncing “Paddy” and “Patty” identically) and can be forgiven for preferring the spelling with T, given that the full form is “Patrick” rather than “Padrick”. Irish people can also flap /t/:

  • “Proddy” is a somewhat derogatory abbreviation of “Protestant”
  • I personally pronounce the first t in “potato” as /d/ and the second as a /t/ (the latter a voiceless alveolar non-sibilant fricative, what Gay Byrne deprecates as a “whistling T”).
  • I suppose “Paddy” itself originates from the same flapping (though Pádraig, the Irish for “Patrick”, is born with a D).

The continuing distinctness of “Patty” from “Paddy” shows flapping is not as systematic or widespread in Ireland as in America.

“Saint Patty’s Day” is sometimes shortened to “Saint Patty’s”, which I suspect grates even more with those Irish who choose to be grated with. The Irish shortening is “Paddy’s Day”, sans “Saint”. Abbreviating “Saint X’s Day” to “Saint X’s” (as opposed to “X’s Day”) strikes me as American. Caveats:

  • like most Euro-anglophones, my default assumption is that anything I’ve only just noticed in English must be recently arrived from America
  • the only values of X that spring to mind are “Patrick” and “Valentine” (Though abbreviating “New Year’s Day” to “New Year’s” rings the same bell).

“Paddy’s Day” may also be spelt “Paddys Day”, signifying “the day of the Paddys” (i.e. “the day of Irish people”, reclaiming the ethnic slur “Paddy”) as opposed to “the day of Paddy” (a rather impious way to refer to the patron saint).


17 Aug

The word “outspoken” is of the same category as “well-spoken” and “softly spoken”; one of those odd adjectives where a past participle is used where a present participle would be more logical. In Logical English, a well-speaking person speaks well, a softly speaking person speaks softly, and an outspeaking person speaks out. Another verb with a similar adjective is (well-)behaved. Related are (well-)read and (long-)lived (if you pronounce the i as in “living” rather than “alive”)  but those have a sense of accomplishment which makes the past tense relevant.

I  used to think there was a verb, to “outspeak”, which was transitive: if I outspoke you, it meant I had beaten you in an argument. People described as “outspoken” tend

  1. not merely to proclaim their views without fear
  2. but also to hold unpopular views.

When I first read about people satisfying (1) and (2) described as “outspoken”, I guess I imputed meaning (2) instead of meaning (1) to the word. But whereas (1) has positive connotations of bravery and vision, (2) has negative connotations of contrarianism or eccentricity. For how long did I  misinterpret a journalist’s description of the  “outspoken” subject as blame instead of praise? Somewhere in my mid teens, I’d guess.

Turns out, there is a verb “outspeak”, which can mean either “speak out” or “speak better than”. My early self is vindicated. I would would hesitate to use the verb now, though: I might well be misunderstood.

Heads or harps?

25 Oct

When I was a child, my father when tossing a coin would call “heads or harps” rather than “heads or tails”. Up to 1823, Irish coins had the king’s head on the obverse and the (crowned) harp on the reverse, so “heads or harps” made perfect sense. Then British coins took over and the harp disappeared for a century. When the Irish Free State introduced its own coins in 1928, they had an (uncrowned) harp on the obverse, and various native animals on the reverse. So the call ought to have been “harps or tails”, but instead “heads or harps” made a comeback. I guess the animals all had heads, but then they all had tails as well.

The Dictionary of Newfoundland English records “heads or harps”, obviously imported from Ireland.

Proxy apologies

22 Nov

Stan Carey is blogging about that justly condemned act, the non-apology. In 2009, Geoff Pullum described Gordon Brown’s apology to Alan Turing as “a real apology for once”. I don’t think it’s quite as simple as that. Here are what Pullum calls the “operative words”:

on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work I am very proud to say: we’re sorry, you deserved so much better.

In my opinion, you can’t be proud while making a personal apology. You can be proud afterwards, of having done the decent thing; but the act itself is a moment of humility, not pride. Congratulating oneself for one’s magnanimity would ipso facto negate that very magnanimity.

The reason Gordon Brown can state his pride is that it is an impersonal apology. He is not apologising for something done by him, or on his behalf, or even on his watch; he is apologising on behalf of a system which he is now a part of, for an act done by that system before he was a part of it. The expression of pride is actually a clever (cunning, even) way of distancing himself personally from the act. Brown’s apology was real, but it’s not a model for a celebrity who needs to tweet an apology for a previous offensive tweet. Brown’s was a proxy apology, whereas Kanye or Malky’s apology must be personal.

The 2009 apology seems like a win-win situation for Brown: he gets the kudos for apologising, without the guilt of having been wrong in the first place. So why don’t political leaders routinely apologise for all the mistakes made by their predecessors (at least those from a different political party)? One reason is that diminishing returns would soon set in. But in addition, an official apology might be evidence that would stand up in a court of law when deciding how much compensation to pay the wronged party. So even impersonal apologies can be non-apologies. “This government regrets that the actions taken in good faith by a previous government following the perceived best practice of the time have subsequently turned out to be a catastrophic failure.”


25 Oct

NOOB (Not one-off Britishisms) asks UK residents how they pronounce “negotiate”: ending shee-ate or see-ate. I am an Ireland resident, but I’m answering for myself. And I’ve considered all words in -ciate, -tiate . I’ve arranged them in order.

Definitely -s-

Probably -s-

Either -s- or -sh-

Probably -sh-

Definitely -sh-

Now -sh- once -t-

The last section is book-words where I would have guessed -t- as a spelling pronunciation. Interesting that neither -s- nor -sh- appears to be my default for novel -tiate words.

The above rankings are by no means definitive (even for me, I mean; let alone anyone else) and I’ve shuffled them several times in the 20 minutes I’ve spent writing this.